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2022 Western Drought and Heat Webinar

Event Date
July 21, 2022
Event Time
11:00 am - 1:30 pm

Over 72% of the Western U.S. and Southern Plains were in drought, according to the July 19 U.S. Drought Monitor. But that 72% only tells a portion of the story. 

Most of the western U.S., including southern Montana to northern Mexico and from the Pacific Ocean to the Rocky Mountains, is experiencing the region's driest megadrought in at least 1,200 years. ​​One of the key drivers intensifying this megadrought is climate change, as warmer temperatures are increasing evaporative demand and drying out soil and vegetation. Impacts are severe. Lakes Powell and Mead, along with the Great Salt Lake, are at record low levels; parts of California are facing unprecedented water restrictions; and New Mexico is currently dealing with the two largest wildfires in state history. As temperatures continue to rise over time, impacts are likely to worsen. 

The 2022 Western Drought and Heat Webinar, co-hosted by the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and National Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS), provided the latest information on current drought, heat, and fire conditions and forecasts, as well as the serious impacts to diverse sectors of the economy and communities throughout the West. Perspectives from those on the ground who are responding to these worsening drought and heat conditions were also shared.

For more information, please contact Adam Lang (


Introduction and Opening Remarks

Welcome to the Western Drought and Heat Webinar

Amanda Sheffield | NOAA/National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado Boulder

  • Welcome to the 2022 Western Drought and Heat Webinar.
  • This webinar is hosted in partnership with NOAA’s National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS).
  • Any remarks not summarized here can be viewed in the full webinar recording on the NIDIS YouTube channel.



Drought and Heat Webinar Series: The West

Dr. Sarah Kapnick, Chief Scientist, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Watch the full remarks.



Introduction to NIDIS

Amanda Sheffield | NOAA/NIDIS, CIRES

  • NIDIS was established by Congress in 2006.
  • NIDIS Mission:
    • Develop and provide a national drought early warning system. 
    • Coordinate and integrate as practicable, Federal research in support of a drought early warning system
    • Build upon existing forecasting and assessment programs and partnerships.
  • Purpose of today's webinar: Provide the most up to date information on drought conditions and response efforts in the Western U.S.
  • Learn more about NIDIS.



Introduction to NIHHIS

Juli Trtanj | Director, National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS)



Drought, Heat, and Wildfire Conditions and Forecasted Outlook 

Climate and Drought Status Update

David Simeral | Desert Research Institute, Western Regional Climate Center

  • As of July 19, 2022, 73% of the western U.S. is in drought (D1–D4), with 30% in extreme to exceptional drought (D3–D4). 
  • Impacts: critically low reservoir levels, agricultural, economic, ecosystem, low streamflows, elevated fire danger, recreation.
  • Water Year to date (2021–22) precipitation has been normal to above normal across the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies. Conditions have been mainly dry across California, Nevada, and the Four Corners states.



Looking Forward: Latest Climate Prediction Center Outlooks for Temperature, Precipitation, Drought, and the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO)

Jon Gottschalck | Chief, Operational Prediction Branch, NOAA/National Weather Service/Climate Prediction Center

  • Above-normal temperatures are most likely for most of the western U.S. during days 8–14 (late July to early August) with the potential for hazardous heat in the Pacific Northwest. 
  • For August, above-normal monthly mean temperatures are most likely, with highest odds in the central Great Basin and central Rockies. Above-normal 3-month mean temperatures are most likely for August–October.
  • Periods of above-normal precipitation associated with the Southwest Monsoon favor some further improvement in drought conditions in this region. There is potential for drought development in parts of the northern Rockies.
  • La Niña conditions are favored to remain through 2022.



The Office of Climate Change and Health Equity Climate and Health Outlook

John Balbus | U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

  • The Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE) was formed by E.O. 14008, “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad” to reduce the impacts of climate change on the health of the American people.
  • OCCHE issues Climate and Health Outlooks to inform health professionals and the public on how our health may be affected in the coming month(s) by climate hazards and provide resources to take proactive action.
  • Key takeaways for the Southwest from the July issue of the Climate and Health Outlook:
    • Counties in Colorado (26), Utah (23), Arizona (15), New Mexico (15), Nevada (13), and California (10) are projected to have more than 5 heat exceedance days in July 2022. 
    • A dry climatology precludes any prospects for drought improvements, except across the lower Four Corners region, where an anticipated robust Monsoon season may yield some drought improvements. 
    • Above-normal wildland fire potential is projected for much of northern California and Nevada. 
  • Resources to reduce the risks of different climate hazards are available on OCCHE’s websiteSubscribe to OCCHE alerts for updates.



Monthly and Seasonal Wildfire Outlook for the West

Jim Wallmann | National Interagency Coordination Center/National Interagency Fire Center Predictive Services

  • Fire activity is increasing across much of the West.
  • There is above-normal significant wildland fire potential through September for much of California, the inland Northwest, and northern Great Basin.
  • Fire activity will remain elevated near the California coast and along the western slopes of the Sierra in October.
  • Alaska fire activity will continue to slow down, but fires will continue into August.



Question & Answer



Drought and Heat Impacts and Western Perspectives

Update on Heat Impacts in the City of Phoenix

David Hondula | Director of Heat Response and Mitigation for the City of Phoenix, Arizona

  • Phoenix’s Climate and Heat Readiness Investment: 
    • $2.8 million in 2021–2022 budget
    • Infrastructure and maintenance
    • Information resources
    • First publicly funded heat office in the U.S. 
  • Summer 2022 Heat Response Plan:
    • Goal 1: Reduction in heat-associated deaths (Maricopa County Department of Public Health data)
    • Goal 2: Fewer heat-related service calls (Phoenix Fire data)
    • Goal 3: Evaluate 100% of heat response programs and services (Office of Heat Response and Mitigation)
  • For more information, visit



Tribal Waters in the Southwest: Impacts and Solutions

Michale Kotutwa Johnson | Assistant Specialist in Indigenous Resiliency, School of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Arizona

  • There are 30 tribes in the Colorado River Basin.
  • Barriers:
    • Lack of adequate financial and human capital (technical assistance) to address issues (e.g., water and agriculture, infrastructure) of climate change on tribal lands.
    • Lack of data related to natural resources (weather stations).
    • Lack of tribal engagement in the area of water management (2 to 4 million acre-feet).
  • Solutions:
    • Federal allocations to address capital improvements using funding mechanisms (e.g., Farm Bill).
    • Regionally established databases for tribal natural resource and agriculture data.
    • Collaborative partnerships involving local, state, and federal agencies and non-governmental organizations with tribes. 
  • Resources:



Drought and Water Supply in California

Tom Ballard | California Rural Water Association

  • As surface water deliveries decrease, agriculture has utilized more groundwater, causing San Joaquin Valley subsidence and groundwater elevation changes. 
  • Current governor executive orders address a number of emergency drought requirements, including groundwater.
  • Implications: 
    • Suspension or limitation of new well permits for all wells in some places.
    • Application of Section 9(b) provisions to all wells, not just agriculture wells.
    • Significant increases in the cost and timeframe of a new well.



U.S. Drought and Heat: The West

S. Clayton Palmer | Western Area Power Administration

  • Effect on hydropower production from a reduction in Lake Powell elevation: 
    • If Lake Powell elevation falls below 3,490 feet, electrical power production at Glen Canyon Dam completely stops.
    • The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is taking extraordinary measures to keep Powell’s elevation above 3,490 feet.
    • The Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) is working with its firm electric service (FES) customers to replace Glen Canyon Dam power if that becomes necessary.
  • WAPA has FIRM electrical service contracts.
  • Prices for electric power soared in the summer of 2021.  



Question & Answer



Concluding Remarks

Amanda Sheffield | NOAA/NIDIS, CIRES

Juli Trtanj | Director, NOAA/NIHHIS

Key Partners

The 2022 Western Drought and Heat Webinar assembled stakeholders, decision makers, and drought experts for an informational webinar on drought conditions and response efforts in the Southern Plains. This webinar was co-hosted by NOAA’s National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS) in collaboration with NOAA’s National Weather Service, USDA’s Office of the Chief Economist, along with Federal, Tribal, State, and local partners.